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Groups unite to bridge employer, employee gap

For the first time in Alabama, regional and federal entities have joined forces to find solutions to reduce and eliminate the prospective employer/potential employee gap.

On Wed., Aug. 2, representatives from West AlabamaWorks!, which is state, grant and privately funded, joined with members from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which is federally funded, to form one united Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act board. The meeting took place at Phifer Incorporated.

“West AlabamaWorks! is proud to be the first regional council to combine both the industry-led workforce council with the federally-funded WIOA board. Together, we are tearing down the silos to create a process for opportunity and growth for our citizens,” said Donny Jones, team leader for West AlabamaWorks! and chief operating officer of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.

Jones added that he is excited to see what the leaders from the nine-county area  — Lamar, Fayette, Pickens, Tuscaloosa, Green, Hale, Bibb, Sumter and Marengo — can accomplish.

Gary Nichols, chairman of West AlabamaWorks! and local workforce development board chair of WIOA, is also excited about the unification.

“We have thousands of good-paying jobs in our region that need to be filled by 2019. It is important for every stakeholder and provider in workforce development to come together to guide the flow of dollars toward training, job seekers and those industries in desperate need of a qualified workforce,” said Nichols, chief operating officer of McAbee Construction.

West AlabamaWorks! is one of seven regions created via AlabamaWorks! which was codified in 2016 by the legislature and formally launched in November 2016. It is an umbrella organization for business, industries, the Alabama Department of Labor, the Department of Commerce, the Alabama Department of Commerce, the Alabama State Board of Education, Alabama Community College System, the Alabama Technology Network, and the Alabama Industrial Development and Training. The goal is to provide resources to fill the 18,000+ jobs in Alabama not requiring a four-year degree.

“The Alabama Department of Commerce congratulates the Region Three Workforce Council and the West Alabama Chamber staff for convening the state’s first local area board meeting in Tuscaloosa!” said Ed Castile, executive director of AIDT.  “As this is all new to our state and we are learning as we go, we applaud the region for their desire to be the first in this historic reformation of the Federal Workforce WIOA. We are proud to work with these professionals as they continue developing a powerful regional approach to the workforce challenges we face. This new WIOA local area board is another tool in their workforce resource toolbox. We look forward to many successes from Region Three.”

WIOA is a federally-funded program designed to improve our nation’s public workforce system and help Americans obtain high-quality jobs and careers. This program also helps youth and those with significant barriers to employment. In addition, WIOA assists employers in hiring and retaining skilled workers.

For additional information, visit www.westalabamaworks.com.

(This article originally appeared in the Saturday, August 12, print edition of the Demopolis Times.)